A 12-year-old Somali refugee was reluctant to accompany two other children on an after-school outing that led to her drowning because she feared she would get into trouble for not going straight home, an inquest has heard.
The body of Shukri Abdi, who first came to the UK in January 2017, was found in the River Irwell in Bury, Greater Manchester, in June 2019. A group of children were with her at the river in the period before she died.
The children connected with the case can be referred to only as Child One, Child Two, Child Three, Child Four and Child Five.
The day that Shukri drowned was the first time that Child Two, Child One and Shukri had all been out together after school, Child Two told the inquest hearing on Friday at Manchester city coroner’s court via videolink.
Child Two, Shukri and Child One had been sitting together during a maths class on the day that Shukri drowned, Child Two said. Child One had suggested going to a water park with a slide and Child Two and Shukri had agreed to that idea, Child Two said.
The court heard that Child Two and Child One were waiting for Shukri and were “pissed off and angry” when she didn’t arrive, so they went to look for her in the school locker room, remembering that Shukri did athletics that day after school.
When Child Two and Child One found Shukri in the locker room she agreed to go with them, Child Two told the court.
Child One, Child Two and Shukri went to Bury bus station. Child Two told the inquest that Shukri was “panicking” about going on the outing and worried about finding an excuse to tell her mother for why she hadn’t come straight home from school.
“She knew she was going to be in trouble if she couldn’t find an excuse for why she was coming home late,” said Child Two.
Child Two said the three of them did come up with an excuse, but Child Two couldn’t remember what it was.
Child Two was asked if they had laid hands on Shukri. Child Two replied: “I don’t think so,” and then said they could not remember.
Asked if Child One and Child Two had put Shukri under any pressure to board a bus at Bury bus station, Child Two replied: “I don’t think I can remember if we put her under pressure or not.”
Child Two’s response to some of the questions asked in court was that they could not remember or did not know the answer. Child Two said Shukri had said she wasn’t a good swimmer.
In a police interview recorded soon after Shukri drowned, which was played at the inquest on Friday, Child Two described the time Shukri and Child One were first playing in the river.
“They were just enjoying themselves,” Child Two said. Child Two said Shukri and Child One were at first holding hands.
“She [Shukri] let go because the water was flowing. She went down, she came back up again. She shouted ‘help, help’. She was flapping her hands. She was scared,” Child Two said in the police interview. “I knew that she would die. When she went down the second time she never came back up.”
Child Two said in the police interview that she kept calling out Shukri’s name. Child Two and Child One called 999.
Earlier this week the inquest heard that after Shukri’s death, Child One claimed to have told her: “If you don’t get into the water, I’m going to kill you.”
Child Four, one of the children who tried to save Shukri’s life, earlier told the inquest that Child One laughed for two minutes while Shukri died, and they thought Child One had thought Shukri was joking. Child Three said they did not hear Child One laughing.
Shukri came to the UK with her mother and four siblings after they fled conflict in Somalia. Shukri was born and brought up in a refugee camp in Kenya. She and her family were brought to the UK as part of the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme in which refugees are vetted by the UN. Only the most vulnerable individuals and families are accepted on to the scheme.
At the conclusion of proceedings, the senior coroner for Manchester North, Joanne Kearsley, asked Shukri’s mother, ZamZam Arab Ture, who was in court, if there was anything she wanted to say.
Ture’s head was bowed and she was weeping. “I will wait until I get justice,” she said.
The case continues.
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